Gladstone, N.J. – If there was an underdog at this year's 2009 Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Festival of Champions, it might very well have been Caroline Roffman. The 20-year-old rider from Florida finished third in the Young Rider National Championship competition riding a horse she has only known for three months and that came to her only because of the generosity of another rider. Earning the title of Young Rider National Champion was Kassandra Barteau. Reserve champion was Meagan Davis. Roffman on a horse she has only had since March, moved from fourth place in the Team Test, to second in the Individual Test, giving her an overall finish of third place.
Roffman, who trains with Lars Petersen, earned her third-place finish with the help of the 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding Accent Aigu FRH by Amerigo Vespucci. The horse was a gift from Carrie Schopf, a top amateur American rider based in Germany. Schopf brought four horses to Florida to compete and train the winter of 2009. The benefits of getting out of the cold climate and tense atmosphere of the indoor shows in Europe and bringing her horses to Florida were obvious and her horses made tremendous progress. But there was one horse in particular she knew would be better off left behind if only it could be in the right hands. Schopf one day asked DressageDaily's Mary Phelps for help in finding a young rider who might need a good mount. Schopf told her the horse needed the right kind of rider who could manage his sensitivity. “While interviewing Carrie for an article on her winter in Florida, she told me about Accent Aigu FRH and her desire to find him a good home. Honestly Caroline was the first person who popped into my head. I have learned to trust my first instincts, and in this case it seems as if I was right!” Roffman couldn't be happier that the horse came to her. “When Caroline’s Mom told me the horse nickered at her the second day he was in the barn, I knew Carrie would be happy he had found a good home.” Phelps continued. “Caroline is a talented and hard working rider deserves to be at Young Riders. Because she rides for a sales barn, she does such a good job with the horses she gets to work with they are often sold before she gets to qualify. When I saw they were at Gladstone I was so excited, and can’t wait for Lexington next month. ”
"Carrie wanted to pass him along to someone who needed a good horse. When Carrie spoke to Mary Phelps, it was my lucky day that my name popped into Mary's head," Roffman said. "He's a very electric and sensitive horse. Spurs are definitely not required. But he's a super quality horse. How often do you find people like Carrie who are so generous? I think we can learn so much from Carrie's action. There are many good young riders in need of a horse," Roffman said.
She didn't plan to compete at Gladstone with Accent Aigu. In fact, Roffman didn't plan to compete him much at all during his first few months with her. But then she decided to try him out in a small, local show. "I had no intention of showing him. But he did well at his first show and we thought, let's do a second. Then, we did a third and before we knew it, he had qualified for Gladstone." And once at the national championships, Roffman didn't let the wet weather get her down. Days of rain caused Sunday's final rounds to be cancelled, but not before the Young Riders completed their rides.
Roffman said she didn't care about the rain. She was too excited about being at Gladstone. "I think for most of us young riders, it was an honor just to be there. Come rain, snow, whatever the weather, we'd be there with top hat in hand, ready to ride. Having said that, the footing might have been very wet, but there was never a time when I felt my horse was in danger. The ring really held up."
Were it not for Schopf's kindness, Roffman said she wouldn't have a good quality horse to ride and compete and taking a lesson from Schopf's action, Roffman said she is already thinking that a day might come when she'll share Accent Aigu with a younger rider. "Carrie helped me and now I must pay it forward and help someone else." But Roffman will never sell Accent Aigu. That was part of her deal with Schopf. It's doubtful that she would want to part with him anyway. "When I met him, it was pretty close to love at first sight," she said.
Accent Aigu has a good dose of Thoroughbred blood in him, which Roffman said makes him very sensitive and adds to both the challenge and fun of riding him. "He is so sensitive. He requires finesse riding. You ask him nicely and hope he answers nicely," she said. Roffman said she has learned much from the talented horse. In addition to honing her skills as a rider, Accent Aigu has also really taught her patience. "You really have to wait for him. He doesn't like to be pressured. You have to approach him as a coach and give him guidance and support," Roffman said.
One thing is for sure, America hasn't seen the last of this pair, with the North American Young Riders’ Championships coming up in July, giving Roffman another month with her new partner they will be a pair to watch and enjoy, now that you know “the rest of the story”.
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